Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Giving Birth To A New Blog

First I'd like to apologize to all those who have been a follower on this blog for not writing anything fresh for several months. It's not that there haven't been fresh things to write. It's that there has been a baby of sorts, in gestation! It's been a joy to have readers who are as inspired as I've been this past 14 months as I've journaled and reflected here on all that God has been and done for me on this journey. He is leading me to new ways of sharing this, however, and I want to announce that there is soon to be the birth of something a bit more exciting than this little blog.

Since the beginning of the year I started praying that the Lord would show me how He wanted to use me in my new life as a single woman. I knew that as I healed from my grief and personal losses that I didn't want it all to be in vain. I have felt a strong nudge to pursue a call to ministry, a ministry for other widows. After all, who knows the many levels of our needs better than another widow? As the months progresses, God starting bringing other widows into my life, many of which felt the same way as I did...called to minister to other widows. My prayer began to change from, "How do you want to use me?" to "How do you want to use us?"

In my quest to discern all this, it dawned on me that there could be great value in gathering like minded widows together to pray, be in God's Word, and discern together how God might use us. As I prayed about that, God opened an opportunity to hold a retreat at a large and beautiful farm house in Virginia.

As I was preparing for the retreat and through a national announcement that was places on the Internet through the GriefShare ministry, I discovered by the overwhelming responses to the invitation, that there are actually many little widow ministries going on all over the country! I began to ask if God really wanted me to start another one. It eventually dawned on me that God wanted me to connect them! Thus, the birth of a new blog should be born, one with a website platform. It will be a site with resources and stories for widows and other women who live life without a spouse, from other women who will share from their victories! It will be a site to educate, encourage, inspire, and grow suggestions as to how our needs can be met, and we can grow in wisdom and a deeper more intimate love relationship with the Lord who saved us.

I won't be writing many more posts on this blog and I hope that many of you will become followers of the one site. It's barely up and running yet but keep it saved on your favorites and visit on occasion to see how far it's progressed. Right now it's simple and has but one story on it. I'm still learning all the new whistles and bells that accompany using a blog and a website in conjunction with each other, and am still gathering stories, poetry, and ideas for the site. The website address is: www.newdirectionministriesonline.com The logo will be a butterfly. I love the image of this creature that once lived in a little place and saw life from a small perspective but later is wrapped in a tight space, protected from the elements from a season, and then, when all the wondrous work was done inside, it blooms, comes out to take breath from air, be warmed by the sun, and fly to new heights and in new directions with a greater perspective on life. That is what life can be like for those who are single or single again. The Lord holds a special place for the women who can only rely on Him to fulfill our needs for a husband. He has special and unique ways to reveal that to us. It is my hope that this new site will inspire women (even lonely married women) to know Him in ways like never before and we can sore on wings like eagles (Isaiah 40:31) or like the butterfly who knows the experience of new life!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Glance Behind, a Peek Ahead

Today's pics are from my daughter's graduation from college (right) and my trip to WV to visit friends (left).

I can hardly believe it's almost a year since Vinnie passed away, just shy three days. So much has happened in this year, and so much is changing. I find myself reflective and thinking about the best days of my whole life - when we were a young family. I still miss Saturday family days. Every Saturday was a special day to go somewhere and do something special as a family. The girls were sweet. We were a sweet family. As the years rolled on, life brought many challenges, and the girls got older and starting finding their own way in life, Vinnie and I thought about what the years ahead would hold for us. We had dreams of buying an RV and driving all over America and Canada sight seeing and doing some kind of ministry with kids on weekends at churches, bringing the Gospel to families through art and games and songs. We thought about bringing our grand children to Disney. We had many ideas. None will come to pass.

Now, I am considering school, working but praying for a better paying job, one that fulfills my passions, and trying to fit time in for visits with my kids and grand children. My evenings are no longer filled with old movies and dreaming with my hubbie. Now they are filled with conversations with girlfriends on FaceBook, Skype and emails. And there's the option of school. I didn't finish very much college when I was younger. Recently I was accepted at the college at Southeastern Theological Baptist Seminary but I can't afford to go without scholarships. I got accepted so late in the summer that I can't get scholarships now so I won't be able to go until next fall! So now I am looking into other college options. The bottom line is that I am not a wife and Mommy anymore. I'm single and support myself. There's no retirement, no Social Security (like there used to be for widows years ago). I've got to create some kind of work that will support me for the rest of my life. I won't survive on the income of a "second job" for much longer! Work was just a second job all these years. Now it is my sole source of income.

I believe God is directing my path and that I will be more and more involved in women's ministry, most specifically, widow ministry. I am hosting/leading a retreat for widows in October that I am calling, Widows Peek (thus part of the title of this blog post). The retreat is the result of asking God why He was bringing so many widows in my life - and so many of them feeling like me and asking, "How do you want to use me, Lord?" As I asked Him, I began also asking, "How do you want to use us?" I thought it would be helpful to provide a time and place where we could meet for prayer and reflection, sharing and rest. Such a provision became available! so far 9 widows from this area and as far west as TN and as far south as FL are coming!

So in October I hope that God will reveal the next step in His plan for my life. And I keep looking ahead hoping that there is purpose and fullfilment in each step. I just don't want to go on without making a difference in people's lives. I can't see any other reason to be alive. Yet, I also can't stop glancing back over my shoulder too - thanking God that He gave the first half of my adult life such purpose, fullfullment and joy. I am so blessed to have been married to a man so full of life with such a servant heart. I am so blessed to have sweet memories of my little girls and sweet times as a family. I am so blessed to know the Lord who lives in me and has used all things in my life for my good and His glory. And I am blessed that God will continue to use me, a wretched, good for nothing sinner, a loser without Him, to give Him glory in the days and years ahead. Only God of the Universe can do that through someone like me. It is my joy to be a vessel for His redemptive work on earth. I live on.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Widows Peek Retreat

If you've read any part of my blog (which is an ongoing story written since October 2008 to now, I've met dozens of widows! I thought I would meet one or two around my age after Vinnie died, so I have been surprised to meet so many in such a short time. Many of these women have expressed a desire to minister to other widows in a variety of ways or are looking for ways to help. Many of them are already GriefShare leaders and/or facilitators but are open to God using them in other ways too.

After many months of prayer and sensing God was up to 'something', I am marching forward in faith to put together a retreat for widowed women who feel compelled to minister to other widowed women. The retreat, being held the weekend of Oct 9-10-11, 2009 just north of Raleigh, NC just north of the Virginia border will be a time of worship, fellowship, prayer, rest, reflections in God's Word and an opportunity to learn about what other ministries for widows already exist. It is our hope to build a strong fellowship and network of widows involved or who desire to be involved in ministry for widows, to learn about what others are doing, and to express the areas they see are a wide spread need.

Though space is limited (no more than a total of 17) for this weekend, we want to see every woman with input or willingness to share to join us! To learn more about the retreat, comment in this post and I will be happy to contact you and send more information. If you cannot attend but wish to be on a team who will pray for this team and our weekend together, let me know that in the comment section and I'll be happy to send prayer requests as we approach the retreat weekend.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Fearless Living

Here are some pics of my home decorating. I've even gotten fearless about making changes in decor! (Thanks to all kind of help!)
Don't you love when it becomes clear that the Lord has a message for you...like when you see the message all over the place? The message for me this week has been "Be fearless". One devotional I read said to have fear is to be disobedient to what God is directing you to do - that would be the opposite of fearlessness. I didn't understand at first how fear went side by side with disobedience until I asked the Lord to show me the relation they had to one another and it hit me! When we sense the Lord is leading us to do something or to make a certain decision or change directions - whatever it is, and we don't do it, it is disobedience and it's because of fear. What do we fear? Perhaps that we aren't good enough, smart enough, trained enough. Perhaps it's that we are afraid to fail or afraid we aren't hearing God right and we'll make a fool of ourselves. Maybe it's because we don't think we can afford to do it - financially or emotionally. But here's the end result - fear equals disobedience. Fear is a like a road block between us and God, our choices and His will.

So...what if I'm wrong about what I think He telling me? Can I trust Him that He'll lead me rightly if I am truly praying and doing something out of obedience? He looks upon the heart and He loves an obedient heart. That's all we need to care about. So how does this play a part in this season of my life? I need not be afraid of the journey I believe God's taking me on. I am pursuing a change in careers and will start my own business. It may turn out to be a part time business on the side. It might turn out to be astronomically successful. I don't know but I'm pursuing it fearlessly and trusting Him with the whole thing. I am going to be a Christian Life Coach and I'm going to specialize in coaching widows to rebuild their lives after the death of their husbands. I am so excited that God has lead me to this point. He's lead me to people who are in this field - a field that until two months ago I didn't even know existed. He lead me to a wonderful Christian training program. He's even lead me to people that will probably refer clients to me. God is so good.

I have big dreams and there's more to the dreams than the little I've told here but if they don't come true it doesn't matter to me. What matters is that after many, many months of trying to discern what God's been directing me to do in my life, I believe I've received the most direction now than ever before. Everything makes sense now and it all fits together. And...I'm just being obedient to what I believe he's telling me to do. What if I'm wrong? What if I fail? I believe God will keep redirecting me and I won't fail because even if the path doesn't go as planned (my plan) something good will come from it (Romans 8:28).

So what's this mean for you, the reader? I believe we are fearful. We think we can't. We think we're aren't ______ (fill in the blank). We are more willing to believe lies and hear them, and justify them than we are willing to believe that God is bigger than us and wants to do God sized things in us. I want to be part of a big plan, a big effective work of God's. I want to be used by God and I want others to see God in my life. It's not going to happen if I second guess Him. It's not going to happen if I think "I can't". Maybe it's true that "I" can't but He can and will if I let Him. It seems I am living a whole new way, thinking a whole new way. No longer am I holding back and being afraid of failure or of myself. For you...ponder these things and live without fear!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

A Generous Family

If you have read any of the stories on this blog site, you probably know that I have two daughters, a step daughter, three grandchildren, five step grandchildren, a sister who lives nearby (and one that lives a few hours away), and my mother. I have other relatives of course, but they are distant and I don't see them much. But...I also have a great BIG family in Christ!

I do remember a time when our church was going through several transitions and Vinnie and I, like many others, considered if God had a plan for us to worship in another church. Mind you, the thought took less than a minute to decide but still, we did give it a thought. One of Vinnie's responses at the time was something like, "If something ever happened to me, I know there'd be a lot of people in our church family that would take care of you." He was right! The love of family in our church gave him great comfort then, and now they comfort me.

Let me tell you what an awesome church family I have. Most of them are people young enough to be my own children, and many of them whom I wouldn't have even known if it weren't for the news of my losses last year. There are a number of young mothers who invited me to join their freezer swap group when they heard that I was eating weird 'meals' because I found it difficult to cook for myself. There's a young man who comes to cut my lawn every single week. Another has come and done free electrical work for me. Others have helped me move things from storage to my new house in the process of sorting and eliminating things I no longer need to keep. One has been cutting the grass at my old house while it was on the market (he is buying the house now! Yeah!). He has also offered to install wood flooring that Vinnie bought for me over a year ago, into my new house. One is coming to chop up large brush that takes over the perimeter of my yard, and one large Bible study group in the church is coming over to do at least a dozen home improvement projects around my house next week!

Why are so many willing to all this for me? It's not that I deserve any of it! It's not like I am a great person that people flock to. It's more than that. First, it comes from a desire to help those who are needy and many know that my life this year has required many, many changes and adjustments (emotionally needy). Second, I believe it is a return for the many generous acts of kindness Vinnie bestowed on many people in our church and community while he was alive. Third, there are men in the church that can assume that there would be things I'd need to have done in my home now that I that I don't have any men in my life to help me. And fourth, it comes from passages in Scripture about God's people taking care of widows.

With all the things I've written about on this blog site, it must be said that I don't even know where I'd be without this great big, HUGE family that God has placed me in the middle of. I am humbled and though it's not being special in any way that makes them do these things for me, I feel pretty special all the same. I may have many things to still adjust to in this new season of life, but I don't think I'd have made it this far, and this well, without any one of these loving Believing family members! I love them to pieces!

Monday, June 22, 2009

A Dead Truck

Here's Vinnie's red pick up. He always wanted a truck like this one and he got to own it for a few months before he went Home.

I will soon be closing on the house that Vinnie and I lived in for almost three years before he died. I didn't particularly like living there. It was a blessing at the time we bought it and I was in love with the dream we had to build a dream home there and eventually buy out the land next door to create a lovely haven with a plenty of room for the whole family and plenty of friends to come spent time with us there. The dream never happened and I put the place up for sale. The home and property were too much for me to take care of anyway.

Last weekend Vinnie's truck broke down. I could tell it was the engine. I am not sure why the engine went out; the truck only had 145,000 miles on it and it had plenty of oil which was not ready to be changed. But it seemed to me like it was a message to me that I needed to give up everything that was Vinnie's. Once the sale of the house closes, I'll have nothing but ashes, an American flag and a lot of pictures that are of Vinnie. Everything else is gone - a reminder that I am in a new season of life and am living it by myself.

It's bittersweet. The truck needed a lot of work and so did my Buick. My budget to fix and maintain the two cars was almost as much as my new car payment! I know this is Vinnie would be proud of me for the decisions I've made (most of them anyway - he'd probably cringe at the way I do my bookkeeping!) but he's not here to say, "Great job, Gailie!" I wish I could hear him talk to me at times - I miss his encouragement and having someone to dream with. But I am not going to hear his voice again and I doubt that when I hear it in heaven that he will still have that romantic little Italian accent I used to make fun of. Funny, I would so love to hear it again.

I am still searching for my "own" in this new season of life. I would so love to be in business for myself, a business that is also a ministry of some kind. This is a subject of prayer and I'm also hoping to attend the college at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in the fall of this year. It is my hope that God will continue to shape this new dream (old dream with a new twist - I'm doing it alone). If I am to be alone for the rest of my life, I at least want to pour my life into something that truly allows me to do what I'm most passionate about.

Yesterday was Father's Day and I didn't think it was a day that would become emotional for me but it was. I didn't think until later in the day, but next year I'm going to act on an idea that came to me before I went to bed last night. I'm going to find some other people who have lost their dad and/or women who have lost their husbands, and go visit men in hospitals or nursing homes who would be encouraged to have company. Perhaps we can share the good news of Jesus who opened the way for us to know our Perfect Father in heaven. Now that is a great new normal!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Happy Anniversary

I've said it before and I'll say it again...grief is a weird journey! Unlike other kinds of suffering, and I've had my plate full of them in life, it's a state of suffering that fades in and out at different times. For instance, I am approaching what would be my 26th wedding anniversary with Vinnie and sadness is already hitting me again.

My youngest daughter got married on our 25th. Vinnie and I renewed our vows and incorporated that into the beginning of their wedding ceremony. It was a precious event. But even though Vinnie and I vowed "to keep our promises to each other for as long as God would have us be together", we both knew deep down in our hearts that the amount of time we'd still have together on earth would be shorter than we'd hoped. It was! We would only have 7 weeks left. The anniversary date will be harder to face and more emotion to deal with than I was expecting. It is still but a week away but it's already getting tough.

This past weekend I went to the beach with my sister. Vinnie and I loved the beach and always planned a trip around the time of our anniversary. There were few moments this weekend that I didn't miss him. Our time away was always opportunity to have conversations that included more than, "What's for dinner?" and "What movie are we watching tonight?". And though I totally loved being with my sister, he was missed this weekend. I am still surprised that when I seem so "OK" with life as it now is, it will take an event like the beach or our anniversary date to turn the sad stone back over again.

I have no clue how long these sudden bursts of sadness will hit me. The recent bouts of sadness that have hit me have been when Shelly graduated from college a few weeks ago, when Amy got a job in her first level of nursing assistance at Duke, the hospital of her dream, the trip to the beach and now our anniversary approaches. It will probably hit me again when Shelly and Chris buy their first house, a deal which will close in a few weeks. My hope is that the year of "firsts" (first Christmas without him, first birthday without him, etc.) will be the hardest and that after that those dates will get a little easier to bear and less sad as each year comes and goes and new traditions are created. Of course I can only guess since I've never been down this road before. I imagine, however, that it will be hard when other firsts come too, like when Shelly and Chris have their first baby and other graduations happen, etc.

Grief is weird. When I've had trouble with a relationship, it always came to a conclusion and the problem was over. If I'd had trouble with a job, or finances, there'd come a time when it would come to a conclusion and some kind of answer would rear it's head in resolve. But grief, it strikes when your going along feeling fine and enjoying something that's in the flow of the day or week or year and suddenly - boom! Grief hits again like ton of bricks. It seems to get easier but not less sad.

When I got home after spending the whole weekend with my sister, I realized that I'd loved having someone to talk to all day, for two whole days! I miss that so much! I never get anyone to myself anymore and I spend many, many hours alone at home. I am not sure I'll ever get over that! It simply compounded the sadness I've already been feeling but sadness is just an emotion. Sadness over Vinnie's absence is simply a sign of the fact that I loved him very much. I have to keep all this in perspective. It's the only way I'm going to survive. So...I'm off now to go hang a new picture I bought to put up over my kitchen window. I wish it was Vinnie putting it up but it never will be him doing it again and that's going to become more and more OK with me in time, I am sure.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Strong or faith and confidence?

This is my youngest daughter, Shelly, graduate of UNCG in Psychology. My other daughter is pursuing a nursing degree, and my step daughter has a degree in early childhood. I am very proud of them. Can you tell?

I have sometimes been told that I am 'so strong'. I was thinking about that today and here's the truth of the matter. I am not strong, well not in the sense that I've thought of people being strong in the past. I think of a 'strong' person who doesn't have a relationship with Christ as one who is a bit tough, hard, and so focused on something that there are no distractions that would bring laughter, crying, or emotion of any kind. THAT does not describe me. I laugh, cry, and am not afraid to experience any emotion or talk about it with others. I don't know that strong is the right word...I am not tough, hard or callus. I'm wondering if it's more that I am confident. I am confident. Oh, not in myself, believe me, but I am confident in who God is. I am confident of who I am in Christ. I am confident that if I pray for something and it doesn't come to pass, that I am the one who didn't get it right, not God, or His timing is better than mine and I need to pay attention.

I know that people think I am strong because I can laugh and live and carry on now that Vinnie is gone. I love Vinnie and miss him so much but I know he and our Heavenly Father want me to live. This is where I live. I don't usually know what I am doing but I do know that even if I haven't figured it out, God is always doing something and I am sure, because He is good and He is love, that He knows what is best for me and what will most glorify Him and prove that He is exactly who He says He is and always will be. That is what I am confident in and hope to get more and more confident in that until I can go Home. I can't imagine living any other way!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Word of God (Scripture)

In all of the ways I've mentioned this week that God speaks, I left the best for last. God speaks to us all the time in His Word. I remember the first time it happened to me. My step daughter was living with us at the time. I had only been a Believer a year and had recently gotten a study Bible which I read often with fascination to have explanations for most of the passages.

My step daughter was a bit of a argumentative person - OK...she was ALWAYS arguing with Vinnie and me, and teachers, her siblings - EVERYONE! One day while being totally rebellious and yes, arguing with me, I said something like, "You know, you argue with us because you just don't get what you want. We would all have a happier life here together if you'd stop insisting everything would go your way and insisting you get whatever it is YOU want as if you were only important one here!" She stormed of to her room.

A little while later I went up to my room and opened my Bible on my bed. When I picked it up turn to the pages I had been reading before bed that week, I saw a passage that got me SO EXCITED! It was the passage from James 4:1-3. " 1What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? 2You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. 3When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures."

I ran right over to her room and knocked on the door with excitement. I wanted her to know that my revelation (yes, it seems obvious now, but at the time it was a revelation - why we argue!) It was so exciting to show her the wisdom in the Bible (she was not a Believer then).

There are countless times when I would see a passage that would be an obvious clear direction or answer to a problem or a question. There have been times when in one day the same verse would be unexpectedly seen over and over again in different places - the radio, on a web page, a poster, you name it. Vinnie and I would get so excited when things like that would happen!

of all the passages in the Bible, isn't amazing that God would orchestrate our day to put us in the view of the same passage in various places all day when He has a specific message He wants to drive home that day? It's amazing. No one can tell me that my God is not personal and real! It's just too many times, too most interesting and unexpected ways and times He's spoken. I love it and it still amazes me.

I have been realizing this week that I am often times competitive and jealous of others. I can't say I really was so vividly aware of this as I am tonight. I guess this is one more layer, one more way I've kept my eyes off Jesus...yearning for what others have (a relationship, career, comfort, Godly children, a clear call from God on their life, you name it!). Once again, God is showing me that He just wants me to be thankful, content and fulfilled knowing that my ultimate purpose on earth is to enjoy His presence and His relationship with me. It will come as I listen to His side of the conversation - to hear what things He wants to tell me. He's got better things to say to me than all I can drum up to say to Him anyway...so I am sharpening up my eyes and ears to hear Him some more!

Clouds That Speak - (sort of)

Here's my little grandson. He's as cute as that teddy!

I told you I had a funny story to tell of a way God spoke to me once. It actually happened last night! I was driving home after having dinner with my daughter and her family. The wind started to really kick in and dark ugly storm clouds were taking over the sunset. Rain began to pound the windshield when I decided to go home before the storm got worse. I was a bit nervous that I'd have trouble controlling the car in the high winds or I'd lose visibility and have to pull over in the dark and wait to see.

I prayed a short prayer of sorts to get home safely. As I started driving on the Interstate, I realized that it was raining in sections of the highway. It would be really heavy and then seconds later, it was light drizzle. In fact, after about 5 minutes on the Interstate, there were breaks in the dark clouds and streaks of blue sky were visible in between. I suddenly saw the funniest thing - a cloud formation that very vividly shaped a hand giving an "OK" sign. I wish I'd had my camera. You would not believe how perfect it was! There were three folding finger shapes, a palm, and an index finger folded roundly to meet a rounded thumb to shape a perfect "OK". I laughed and laughed and thanked God for giving me a sign that I'd be OK. A few minutes later I was driving in sunshine again. When I got home there were signs of having come after some pretty heavy rains. There were large chunks of tree branches lined up in front of the house too so it must have been a pretty heavy storm. But God had me travel in the pockets of the storm that were safe over my car. Isn't God amazing?!

Tell Him What's On Your Mind!

I know the topic this week is on ways God has spoken to me (and I have a funny one on the next post!) but today I must write about something important - a message to young brides.

I was recently dining with a family - a darling, lovable young couple. There was a bit of tension a few times when the little wife got annoyed with her partner. After having a discussion about it later, she told me she was annoyed because he was talking away, entertaining the guests (which included me but she insisted guests were not to help) and not helping her serve, get things, pour drinks, put food away, and other tasks that arose before, during, and after dinner.

Here's the thing gals...there are things that our husbands might assume would come natural to us...but they go over our heads. And girls...your guy may just not get what you were expecting or what you want. It is always better to say, "Hey want to have so and so over for dinner Friday?" When he says, yeah, we can ....(he may fill in some activity he wants to include in the evening). Then, you say, "Will you help with dinner? Will you help me serve our guests? Will you help me clear the table after dinner? Will you help with dishes? do you want to clean up as we go or do it all after they leave? You'll help me right?"

Girls...let them know what you want or you are hoping for! I used to just tell Vinnie that when I hadn't gotten flowers in awhile, he could feel free to surprise me one night with some or I'd like to go on a date. I'd ask him if he could think of something he'd like to do on a date (to give him some creative ideas) but sometimes I'd say, "I'm in the mood to go do....(whatever). He SO appreciated that I figured out eventually that it was better to not make him guess. As often as possible, tell him exactly what is on your mind. There'll me less frustration and you will know ahead of time if it's worth taking on a task or not!

Happy marriages to you!

Friday, May 8, 2009

A Loud Whisper of Sorts

I promised to write about the other way God has spoken to me in the past. It is not that I want anyone to think I am special. I simply want others to know that God does speak to His people. When I first started to "hear" God's whispering words, it seemed liked sudden thoughts that came to me from out of the blue. I heard one pastor once say that it is like a bubbling up of spring water, not a constant flow like a river. It is the very way I 'heard' God speak to me when I became a Believer. Now, I have had the encounter several times and what I thought might have been God proved to have been God, so I find I am more confident these days when it is from God. Mind you, there are plenty of times when I am not sure God is speaking and it requires a lot of prayer, a watchful eye, and a humbleness to recognize that my 'listening' may be entangled and therefore distorted with my own human nature. Let me explain though, how I've heard form God in the past.

The day I became a Believer I was in a church service. It happened during the worship time. I looked around the room and wept. I saw all these people singing to God with sincere, wholehearted love. It was overwhelming and beautiful. In my consumption of emotion, I 'heard' a voice in my mind that said, "Look back on your life. Think on all the times when you almost died. I suddenly remembered the two times I tried to commit suicide as a little girl. God said, "I am the One who sent someone in the room to rescue you." I thought of the car accident that nearly killed me. I heard, "I am the One who kept you from being thrown from that car." Then the "whisper" reminded me of the three times I was almost raped. The 'voice' said, "I am the One who suddenly brought others into the picture to intervene." Then I 'heard", I let you stray to the right and the left of the path I have for your life but those times when you got too far off, I am the One who pushed you back on the road. I did all this to bring you to today. But starting today, you will no longer be allowed to stray. I have things I want you to do and since you have always belonged to me, you must now seek what are the things I want to do in your life."

I thought about running away at this point, but heard the 'voice' again. "You can run wherever you want, but you will always be tucked away in the hem of my robe and therefore you can never really escape me. I am the One who put the hole in your heart as a little girl - a hole that has made you yearn for love, the love you wanted from a perfect Daddy. I am that perfect Daddy. I want to fill your hole with my love. I wanted you to know me, that I am your perfect Daddy."

Does this all seem crazy? I really can't explain it any other way. I 'heard' this voice in my mind. It was kind of like dreaming, only to the best of my recollection, I was awake. I mean I was still sitting through the service that morning and I left a new person. I 'heard' this voice a few other times too. One time was actually before I became a Believer. It was in a service at an Episcopal church (where we used to attend, reluctantly). A woman priest came to give the service that day. I'd never heard of a woman priest before. I thought it was ridiculous until I heard her sermon! I not only heard her sermon, but I heard a voice in my head that said, "You will do this some day!" The only reason I didn't pursue a career as a priest at that point was that my husband thought I was nuts!

I heard the same message when I attended a Women of Faith conference about a year after I became a Believer. As I listened to women speaking, I also heard a 'voice' telling me that one day I'd be doing what they were doing - speaking and sharing God's story in my life and being an encouragement of faith to other women. And...I heard the voice again one other very distinct time.

I had become quite involved in a Children's Church program we'd started for our grade school children at our church. At the end of one year in this program, a friend and myself were praying about what to teach the following year. We felt like God wanted us to teach the names of God and I was led to a new curriculum written and published through the Bethlehem Baptist Church where John Piper pastors and went to a workshop to learn more about it.

As I sat though the workshops, I would hear all these really awesome ideas and concepts about teaching the children the Word of God. I would again 'hear' this voice. The voice kept saying, "Well, when you run Children's Ministry, you can do it that way too." I heard it over and over again, and remember thinking, "why do I keep hearing that?! There is already a pastor over the children and even if he wasn't there, I am not a pastor. Why would it seem like God is telling me that I would run things? I'd never become a pastor." It was so confusing!

Little did I know that the children's pastor would step down two months later! the 'voice' came to me many times, "Go tell your pastor God wants you take over." It seemed so ridiculous that it took three months of just not standing it anymore before I finally got the nerve to tell our pastor. The results (and I'm skipping a lot of detail here - perhaps for another blog)...I was children's minister at our church for 3 1/2 years! I was certain at that point, that God does in fact still speak to His people! I can't go on, although I could, but it's a blog, not a book. Perhaps tomorrow I'll tell you about that journey in Children's Ministry!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

When God Has Spoken...

Today's pics are of my youth. The top two are right after my senior year. That was my step dad's Camaro, not mine. And check out those fabulous (NOT) short dresses and scarves! Whohoo.
Fashion is hilarious!

I have had the strangest things that have come to mind at times. It has seemed so strange and out of the blue that I could only conclude at the time that it was God or the Holy Spirit that brought those things to mind. Over time they have proved to be true. I was telling a friend this the other day and she asked if I have kep a journal of these events. Truth is, they are not specifically documented so I thought I would doc them today on my blog.

A few times I've had strange sudden mathematical/numerical things pop into my head from seeming out of no where. One such time was when one of my grandsons was born. My daughter had him at 18. She'd gotten pregnant at 17 we extended grace and hoped that good would come out of it for her and all of us. When I was holding that little gorgeous baby boy it suddenly dawned on me that if you go back one month from his birthday, May 23, and add three days, you get his mother's birthday, April 26. If you go ahead a month and subtract 3 days you get June 20 which is my step daughter's first son. If you go ahead one more month and subtract 3 days, you get my youngest daughter's birthday, July 17. Now that might all seem complicated, but it all came to me in a flash moment and was clear and simple as day and night. My next feeling was that God wanted me to know that He is aware of all the details of our lives, He is Sovereign over ever detail, and He wanted to assure me that He would care for this little one and the rest of our family.

The next time He spoke to me in numbers was back in March of last year. Vinnie was still recovering from his second surgery when his kidney, prostate, bladder and some lymph nodes were removed. He was still sore but he was getting better and we were hopeful. However, in March one day during a church service, it suddenly dawned on, from out of the blue, that I was born in 1956 and Vinnie was born in 1951 and that while he was still still 56 and I was still 51 he would die. That immediately made me think that he wasn't going to make it and would die in August, right before my 52 birthday. He died one week before my 52 birthday.

These are two numerical ways I can remember that God 'spoke' to me. Tomorrow I'll tell you about how He literally spoke to me on a number of occasions. My purpose? I want people to know that I am not special. What I mean is that while I am a child of God and that is pretty darn special, there are also many other children of God, many who are a lot more special than me! Yet, God still speaks to His people, even in this modern times. If we pray for ears and wisdom to discern then when we absolutely don't expect it - god may speak to us. Be alert. Be confident in teh ways he may communicate to us directly. Come back tomorrow!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

How Still Can I Be?

Here's some photos of my days as a chef/baker/caterer. Always busy...always creating things.

God sure does want me to slow down! I think I have and He seems to indicate in many more ways, that I am just not still enough! I never thought of myself as an active person, probably because I hate exercise so much (but I do do it), but in fact, God is showing me just how active I have been! I am not comfortable being still. And so what do you think God is calling me to do now? Be still! Be stiller than that! And even stiller than that!

In my recent study, it was pointed out that Abraham was told to do something initially - to "go to a land I will show you." That was it at first, wasn't it? He didn't hear all the details from God. He heard the detail he needed for now. The same is true of Moses. He was told to go back to Egypt and tell Pharaoh to let His people go. Moses didn't know about the Red Sea which was magnificent wonder from God. He didn't need to know about that until it was time - God's time.

It's the same for you and the same for me. God isn't any different now than He was then. And as I understand it with my mind, my heart doesn't like it one bit, or I am so used to living in a fashion that has to know all the details so I can get out there and get the job done, that I slip up even without knowing I'm doing it! ugh. but thank god for accountability. I have a friend who keeps telling me - "stay focused!" I need her to do that right now. I am distracted without even knowing I am.

So will the Grief Center happen? I believe so. Will I be given some ministry to do in the area of Grief? I believe I will? Will god use me to lead others to Christ? I believe He will. Why? Because I've experienced the proof that God has spoken to me in certain ways before and they came to pass. He has spoken these things to me over the past several months and I am confident of that. He's already shown me His unique way that He speaks to me. How it will happen? When? Where? How far into the future will it all happen? Will it be all at once? I have no idea!!! (I am sharing here the chaotic thoughts of this mind of mine that doesn't want to sit still!) The answer? I know what I need to do today! That's all. He gives me all the direction I need for this day to glorify Him and fulfill His will. If I am graveling to get to tomorrow, I will miss what how He wants to use me today!

The same is true of you! Join me in being still! Wait, watch, listen. that's my new Sunday school answer - you know the one that is save to give to every question? Yup...join in me in the mission god has given us - to enjoy the love relationship He wants to have with us. THAT is more important to Him than what we might accomplish so that is what we do while we wait. Keep reminding me of this!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Moldable and Teachable

In all my wrestling with God these past few months in a quest to understand this overwhelming passion to know what and where God is driving me to in this new season of life He's put me in, I have come to a wonderful revelation tonight. I've searched in all the places I am confident I could take on if He'd give it over to me. I have sort of been saying, "Lord, here am I; tell me whatever it is you want me to." That sort of sounds right, doesn't it? But my heart has meant - "I have walked a long and hard journey with you, Lord, and I am ready to take on whatever you have for me so bring it on, I can handle it, I can do it."

Tonight it dawned on me that He still wants me to be a pupil. I am still supposed to be the student while He is teacher. In fact, looking back in time, everytime He used me in one way, He first trained me. I didn't realize it until tonight but I've arrogantly been believing I'd learned enough to "get on with it"! Wow...there's some arrogance for you. But I'm not ashamed of that because I know others must go "there" too. It's part of our human nature. No. I am just so thankful for God's grace that He waited for me to see what has to happen next. I heard Pastor Yohannan of India recently say that people are often times blaming the enemy, the devil for their greatest downfalls when in fact, our biggest enemy and cause of downfall is our self centeredness! How true! I must be taught, trained and molded. He still wants to be the potter and He still wants me to be His clay. Self centered people can't be molded or taught anything!

I am so excited about this revelation, though it sounds simple. I know it may hurt a bit - think about being pushed, poked, smooshed, squeezed, spun around and around and even have pieces carved out of you. That's what God wants to do to us and I am excited about that! I am so relieved to understand where He wants me - mold-able and teachable. I'm content with that, and I better be because I'll always be there. God will keep molding me until I go Home! I'll keep you posted as to where my training takes me. Stay tuned to the journey of this little woman (well I hope to be eventually) who is trying to discern the path God has for her now in this season of her life, and as God reveals the path to her, one tiny step at a time.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Asking The Right Question?

Today's pics are of my grand children at Easter. I know Easter is not all about egg hunts but they are so much fun and when else would you do them? We are having a blast watching them find the eggs.

I am studying "Experiencing God" by Henry Blackaby and Claude King (for the 4th time!) but there's always so much to gleam from this study! It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that the men who wrote this study DO experience God in ways I still desire.

Being a widow after being married for so long is weird because you want to move forward in life but don't know what life is supposed to look like so I jumped on the opportunity to join a group of women to do this study again. I've been very aware of my desire to understand God's will for my life and the lessons are hitting that question right between the eyes! Here's a statement from day 2 from unit 1. "Always check to see if you have asked the right question before you pursue the answer. 'What is God's will for my life?' - is not the right question. I think the right question is, 'What is God's will?' " He follows up the meaning of this statement by pointing out the story of Moses. The question is not, 'What was God's will for Moses', but rather, 'What was God's will for Isreal?'.

As I reflect deeply on these statements and questions, I find myself now asking, "What are you doing around me?" "What is your will for those around me?" I like the statement made in day 3 (of unit 1). "We are a doing people. We always want to be doing something. Once in awhile someone will say, 'Don't just stand there. Do something'. I think God is crying out to us, 'Don't just do something. Stand there!' " I don't think I ever noticed that statement in the study before!

I do declare! Do these men know me? God sure made it clear to them that He heard the cry of many (like me) asking God to understand His will for each of us and used these men to deliver us the answer! I can picture myself going up on the mountain for 40 days while others wonder what on earth I am doing. Perhaps people would say (if anyone were looking, which they aren't - ha ha), "She never accomplished anything before and sitting up there on that mountain, she sure isn't going to accomplish anything for the rest of her life if she doesn't get going! She's already 52. What is she waiting for?"

That is really me asking this of myself, or at least I have been feeling that way. I think I've been wanting to show God that I am ready so go ahead and get on with "it". "Hey god, can't you see I am 52 and if I am going to do anything more than work for a place to live, I will need to get going!" But I am realizing that I will never see what God's doing around me unless I stop looking at myself and go join Him on the mountain first. Isn't that where Moses met God before He understood how God wanted to use him in God's plan? I want Him to show me His heart for all those He's looking at, listening to and loving on. I want to join Him in having His heart for everyone of them. I know that if I'd simply enjoy spending time with Him and getting to know His heart, He will give me a task to do and show me how, when and where to jump on board. I've always wanted a mentor - I've had one all along - my Heavenly Father! Would you pray for me? Pray that I will be like clay and allow him to mold me to be just like Him, to see what His desire is for His people, to have His heart and to fall in love with what He wants to do or is already doing around me!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Falling In Love

I don't know about any of you fabulous women reading this blog, but when I was young, the idea of falling in love, getting married and having babies one day was absolutely overwhelming at times. And when I dated anyone that I thought might be "it" it was all over for me. I was a complete mess. I couldn't think, drink, eat, sleep, talk, work, walk, or do anything without thinking of my love. Looking back, after kids, and years of hard work, it seems like it never happened that I was so "out to lunch" but I was.

As I've thought about how God wants to fill the holes in my heart (see yesterday's post) I've had to ask myself why I am not swooning as dumbfounded over the One who wants to be the perfect love of my life. Is it because He's invisible, is it because He isn't physically felt when He wraps His arms around us or hides us in the shadow of His wing? (Psalm 17:8, Psalm 36:7, Psalm 57:1, Psalm 63:7) Is it because He can't literally be heard to human naked ear? It doesn't matter the answer - it's probably a different answer for every one or every season. Here's the point - He longs for us to know Him intimately and to be the one we love above all else - ALL else!

I am attempting to understand how He wants to and can fill these needs in my heart so that I not only say, "I love the Lord my God" but I can say, "I love the Lord my God with all that I am and above all other things and people I have ever loved." If I ever figure it all out, I'll share it with you - but as I understand or experience it in bits and pieces, I'll share that too.

Be blessed and ask God how you can also be a blessing to others....

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Finding Joy, Peace and Fulfullment

(These are pics of when I was a little girl. The littler girl is my sister Nance; the man is one of my step dad's brothers.)

When I was a little girl, I lived with a step father who was mean to me. I was scared to death of him and often did things that physically hurt me but I didn't physically feel it. I had a bad habit of biting my nails and cuticles (even though I got spanked pretty bad for it on a number of occasions). I remember one season of my life when my parents noticed that the skin on the pads of my fingers were raw. They asked me what I'd been doing or what chemicals I got into the basement that would have eaten the flesh off my fingertips like that. I had no clue. They even took me to the doctor and the doctor had no idea. Looking back, it fit the trend I had in other things but I lived in such a cloud of fear and sadness that I didn't pay any attention to things I did because of it, things that hurt me. It became clear to me once when watching a puppy chew the wound of it's paw; it had to hurt. But I realized I had done the same thing. I would gnaw of my nails and cuticles and tear the skin off my fingers without even realizing it. The pain in my heart was greater than physical pain. Besides, numbness became an element of some kind of survival.

I am sorry to be so graphic, and I won't go into the detail of other things I did to my self as a kid, including three attempts to kill myself (a kid's version). At age 10, though, I was given some hope - or so I thought. I found out this man who beat me, threw me around the room, spanked me until my bottom was raw, and even almost killed my mother (at least once that I know of) was not even my real dad! The hope this gave me was that there was a daddy 'out there' that was going to be a perfect daddy, who would love me, hug me, tell me I was a good girl, a pretty girl, a smart girl (the lie I believed my whole life until I was in my 40's is that I was 'good for nothin'). I had the hope that one day I'd find my perfect daddy and he'd take me in his arms and love on me like a momma dog on a lost pup. (Let me add here, that I forgave my dad many years ago, even before I became a believer, and thanked him for things I had learned from him over the years. We reconciled before his death in the 1970's).

When I was thirteen I found out I had a brother. He came to visit us for a few weeks that year. During his stay, his (and my) dad replied to a letter my brother sent him. My dad's letter (which I found and read in secret) said that he didn't know he had another child but he was not interested in me. My hope was crushed!

When I became a Believer in Christ in 1994 at the age of 38, God spoke to my heart. He asked me to think about the hole I'd always felt I had in my heart. (It's hard to remember what that was like now-it was a very deep hole.) He also told me that He wanted to make sure that the hole would always make me wish for a perfect daddy so that when I came to that day in my life, a day pre-ordained by God Himself many, many years before, I'd know that HE was the PERFECT Daddy I'd always hoped for. HE was the hope I'd always wanted.

There's more to the story of my past and the story of my salvation, but as I sometimes hear people talk about loneliness, even in the midst of their own families and their own lives filled with a lot of people, I can't help but wonder what my life would be like now that I've lost my best buddy in the whole world, if God hadn't already shown me this basic truth (and is still teaching me). He wants to be the one to fill our heart. God has been teaching me for years that HE is the one who desires to fill up every single hole in my heart. Even though it still hurts at times, He wants to be there to fill every hole and be the very ultimate element that brings satisfaction, joy, and fulfillment in my life. There is not one person, no not one, who is not given the same opportunity to find joy, peace, and fulfillment in Him, the One who made each one of us. Giving ourselves to Him and trusting Him with our life instead of finding those experiences by obtaining more clothes, shoes, jewelry, a spouse, children, career, a bigger home, a dream vacation or whatever it might be (and I'd still love anyone of those things) truly is a deeper and more fruitful and fulfilling way to live - even when the dearest of those things are taken away from us. I praise God daily to know this awesome truth!
Here's a picture of my biological father and another sister. I met them both for the first time when I was 29 but we parted ways soon after until I became a Believer. Since then, they both have become Believers and my dad and I have reconciled.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Death Manual

So many times people have made funny little comments about the fact that babies don't come with manuals. Well, neither does widowhood! In fact, it seems as though there's more books on how to raise children, all kinds of children and all ages too, than there are books on how to make money and surely more than on dealing with death!

When I went to the funeral home a few weeks before Vinnie died and Vinnie and I decided with the funeral home and our pastor what we wanted done when Vinnie was gone, the funeral director told me that I'd need to get the deed to my house settled with the county for taxes and I'd need to do something or other with Social Services. But so much happened between that day and the day he died, and so much happened after that day that everything got so cloudy, I didn't remember what I was supposed to do or why or when, or any of that. I could have used a manual then!

And then, there's the new level of friendships - couples don't want to hang out with you anymore because three is a crowd, not a fun mix. And singles don't really consider you single. If I joined a widow group I'd probably be one of the youngest in the bunch and some might be in it to find a new spouse. Though a second income would sure help, I am not sure I want to start over again with someone. So there's this lull that lingers...where do I fit in, what am I supposed to do with myself.

Mind you, I have so much to do! It's taken me weeks to get all my tax stuff together for instance. ugh...I had a hard time figuring out where files are and remembering all the places I would find the papers I needed to get my taxes done. I hate that stuff! And Vinnie always did our taxes. I never gave them a thought except to ask when the checks were coming! So that's been another change. And as for friends...I have a lot of friends, but they are all busy with their families. Oh God, where do I fit in?

I must say, I do fit in well with my GriefShare group. I love that there are ladies in the group who have lost husbands and others who are experiencing the family fallout that hits like a tsunami after an earthquake after a significant family member dies. I am thankful for the questions that help me think through the losses I am experiencing from week to week because loss of a significant family member is not just a single loss, but layers and layers of losses. Many things can reveal those layers like the loss of a tax preparer which I didn't experience until January, or the loss of a handyman which I am experiencing now as I am trying to get tasks done in the home I am trying to sell. It is also helpful to look back and see the progress I've made since August 29. Sometimes it's easy to forget there's been more than a spinning of the wheels in one muddy pool.

I wish I could write a manual for other widows but we all travel the journey differently. One thing I could say though is to keep a journal along the way to look back and see the progress along the way. Yes, it may take a couple of years to recuperate from the loss of a spouse, but it will happen, it will. It's a tiring journey but we don't have to travel it alone. Telling others what I'm thinking, feeling, and experiencing also helps. It helps because it makes it less awkward for others to know how to relate to me and talk to me. I want people to know that they can talk about Vinnie and they haven't upset me if I cry sometimes. It's part of life on this side of Heaven, not a part I life very well, but one I think everyone will experience in one way or another in their lifetime. This being the case I cannot help but wonder why more people don't talk about it or that there isn't more teaching about it so we are a bit more prepared with what we might face if we lose a loved one. It doesn't have to be a manual but it would be nice to be a bit more prepared.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Lots and Lots of Grace

I am awe struck tonight thinking about the amount of grace my Vinnie gave to me over the years. Can you see it in our last photo of each other here? I am so thankful that this picture was taken because this picture captures the grace we learned to have for each other. We drove each other crazy at times and we loved each other like crazy too.

This refreshing thought comes after another one those moments when I think twice about conversations that I've had with Vinnie. It is sometimes agonizing because I never got the chance to ask him if I understood him right, or he got what I meant, or if he agreed, or did he know I agreed with him...and the list of questions goes on. It's agonizing because now, there are no answers; there's no one to ask as I second guess the conversations of the past.

When Vinnie was sick, especially in the last month when dozens and dozens of people would come to see Vinnie, we never had the time I so badly wanted to have with him in the end. But here's the bottom line...I would never been able to think of every conversation we'd had in the past, I'd never be able to think of all the questions I have now. The reason? Because before he was gone, we understood the grace we had for each other. I didn't question past conversations. It's easier to question our past conversations now because he's not here to affirm his grace for me. It's just my questions and empty space.

But after shedding tears and begging both Vinnie and God to me being a wretch, for anything I did or said in the past that was stupid, mean, ugly, thoughtless or selfish, I am OK. That is when I remember his grace for me and mine for him.

I write this tonight because I know someone reading this now, or in many years from now, will be able to relate to what I'm saying. Let me encourage you, girls (and guys) to remind your spouse, without them even asking, that you love them, the real "them" and all the sin and bad stuff is just to be expected because we are sinners. Remind them that the bad stuff is gone, gone to hell where it belongs and you've let it go because you never know when you will suddenly rethink a conversation and it will be too late to ask about it. Have grace, lots and lots and lots of grace.

If you are married, have grace, lots of grace. Give it and ask for it. If you are single, practice having and giving lots of grace to every relationship you have with friends and family. The more you do it, the more you will be a pro at doing if you do get married. Grace - it's the crux of what allows us to have had our sin removed from us and put upon perfect our Jesus. Grace - it's the crux of what enables us to live with others peacefully and peacefully live when others have to leave us.

Monday, March 2, 2009

My Wonderful Home

The pictures today are from my front and back porch (and one of my Vinnie shelf - do you see Vinnie's pic?). What a beautiful view I have here of God's beautiful and wondrous creation!

When Vinnie died I was renting an apartment which I quickly realized I couldn't afford. I guess I was so busy taking care of Vinnie and then feeling like I was just barely coming up for air everyday after that for awhile, that I hadn't paid much attention to finances. So when I found this great little house on the street behind my sister's neighborhood, I jumped on it. It's a perfect house for one (or maybe two or three if they are all tiny, but that's it!).

I never thought I'd mind being alone in a house and the first week here I really wasn't OK with it. But over time, I began to look forward to the safety and security of being here where I can spend time reading, listening to music, watching TV, sitting on my amazing screened in deck overlooking an acre of forest, or play on my computer (and of course, blog). I am also looking forward to doing things in the yard when the weather gets warmer. And in spite of this gorgeous snowy day, I am tired of being cold...so God, bring on the warm weather!!!

I LOVE spring. I love fall too because the cool air is refreshing after the intense heat and humidity we have around here 5 months of the year, and of course, fall is beautiful. But there is something about spring that gets me recharged. It reminds me of Christ because He came that we might be born again, becoming new creatures in Christ,
(2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!) and the season of spring is a perfect example of just that...everything coming back from the "dead" and being reborn. The sudden dashes of yellow daffodils, purple crocuses, pink azaleas and dogwoods, it's breathtaking. And if you watch real close, the leaves in the spring are a green like no other time of year - I call it "new life green".

That is what we are promised, a new life in Christ when we put our faith and trust in Him. When I became a Believer in 1994, I knew instinctively that my life would never be the same again. My past was wiped clean, white as snow and I was given the opportunity to live a new life (from white snow to new life green! Whahoo!. But like the leaves a week or so after being new life green, they just become regular old green and it easy to forget where I was before my new life - like dead of winter on a cold dark day going nowhere. I love the spring because it is a reminder of what Christ did for us on the cross - gave us the opportunity for a new life - one that will eventually lead us to Heaven where the sights and smells will not even compare to what we have here on this side of Heaven. Just thinking about it, even on this cold, wet day, makes me feel revived and "new green" all over again! And I am so blessed to see God's beauty through the windows of this lovely little home surrounded by it on all sides!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

It Must Be Amazing

Photos are of our wedding day, 7 years later, and at 24 years.

It is hard trying to figure out who I am now that Vinnie's gone. When we are married, we become one and after 25 years of marriage, tearing two who have become one apart is like taking the laminate layer off an old coffee table. It just doesn't want to all come off!

That is me...an old coffee table. Well, it seems that way at times, especially when it seems like I am going forward and I get stuck on an old piece of crud - cruddy laminate. Ever notice how people treat an old coffee table? We used to have one..all scoffed up, dented, and scratched. No one cared what they did to the table. We all dumped stuff on it because we didn't care if it got scratched up; it was already a mess. Well, it sure does seem like I have big old piles of junk get dumped on me these days. I take few steps forward and suddenly there's a big old pile of junk, the same old junk, dumped right down on my path, right on my head! Ouch! It hurts every time.

I was thinking the other day when more old junk got dumped on this old table, (me) that what ever it is I sense God calling me to do must be absolutely amazing! And as I was thinking that the other day, my friend sent me a copy of a devotion. It was from 1 Peter 5:8 "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. It seems like my enemy wants to devour me." He (the enemy) must know more about what God has in store than me than I do because he is sure working hard at holding me back!

But in my walk with the Lord over these past 14 years it has been proven to me that God's not usually just up to one thing when He is at work either. God only not only has me in a time of trial for His ultimate glory and my ultimate future ("Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him." James 1:12 - THAT doesn't sound like an old table, does it?!), but He is using the struggle of the trial to get me to see some patterns of my past - patterns that cannot come with me into the future! He's making it clear that much of the patterns of today's trials are the result of past sin. Sin is not always a deceitful, intentional wrong. Sin is when we just jump to conclusions and run ahead of God. We can't be too careful... EVERYTHING must be covered in prayer, even the seemingly "dadhh" moments...the "who needs to think twice about what to do here" moments. What scares me is that I wonder if I'll ever get that right! Scarier still is to think that if I don't get myself praying even about the little things that I think are just "no-brainers", I will keep getting hit in the face by it and bearing the heartbreak of not doing the right thing.

So while I am wrestling with God today to understand His will for tomorrow (literally for tomorrow), and repent of the things that were done yesterday, I am also kind of secretly excited to know that God has a plan for my life, a "plan to prosper and not harm, a plan of hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11) I can't help but wonder, with all the opposition I am getting in my efforts to move forward with my life, that what the enemy is prowling around trying to destroy me from doing must be amazing! I am praying for strength and great discernment to make choices and decisions in these difficult times according to what I believe God wants me to do, not out of guilt or manipulation that tends to entangle me, so that God can be honored and glorified, I can be set free from another layer of sin patterns, and move forward with God to the amazing days that He holds ahead of me.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

What The Future Might Hold

I promised yesterday that I would share a little of what I think God might have for my future. When I said that yesterday, I was excited about it. Today, I am in a different, more wavering, wondering to believe if it will really happen. But if it is to happen, I want my friends and sisters and brothers in Christ to have been a part of it and to know all the ways God revealed what it is to be, how it is to come about, and how I am to play a part in the ministry. Let me start by telling you a bit of how the idea got started. Here we go...back in time for a moment.

Yesterday I mentioned that I used to live in Canada. I decided to go there, to live, because I'd heard that there was an alternate school program being offered through a local community (Here's a picture of me with some of the folks at the school in Canada, "Twin Valleys") college that was of interest to me. I knew only that they helped kids who had problems - domestic violence, drugs, alcohol, almost any kind of problem. I thought that it was a college program and figured if AWOL draftees could stay there, they'd surely let me live there too so I went. When I got there I found that it was a high school program for kids who had all the problems listed. A good way to explain it might be like a giant home school, where not only academics was taught but also the kids learned to be dependent and self sufficient through farming, building, cooking, and all kinds of life skills. I stayed anyway on a visa as a "student teacher". (Here's one of the dome buildings the students built!)

For a number of years as a Believer I felt strongly that one day God would use my experience in such a place as the school in Canada. I thought it might be to help run a drug rehab center or some kind of place to minister to children and families. I have never been quite sure what the focus would be; I've just pictured myself running it. Vinnie and I had even talked about how much we'd love to run a bed and breakfast some day. It was right up our alley and a good use of our personalities, gifts, talents, and passions. (Yup, even from my hippie days! See group photo below, I'm in the front row)

One day the training of GriefShare here in Wake Forest was sharing a vision she believed God gave her a few years ago for a Grief Center. She asked if we'd pray about it and I did. After a few days through, I felt like God was knocking on my head saying, "Gail, Hello! Can't you see that her dream and yours fit together?" So I picked up the phone and called her right away. I thought we should talk about what my dream was and see how she felt it was to fit together. We've been praying about it ever since and I've been lead to some pretty amazing little connections too, leading me to believe that God is in fact, piece at a time, revealing what His plan really is for this center.

I believe part of it will be like a bed and breakfast. One building will be called the Widow's Peak. There will be an area suited for kids - a camp type of setting, and there will be space for conferences and workshops. There will be also gardens and a library, a dining area, a chapel, and things to do outdoors to enjoy the beauty of God's creation. I am not sure of much else although, like I say, it seems to be coming together piece by piece. It's kind of like putting a puzzle together that doesn't have the box top on it with the picture of the finished product. We have an idea of it's shape but we pick up pieces and think, "this looks like it might be another piece to this picture, let's put it in the pile and see if/when God gives us key pieces to make all the others fit together.

It's hard to be given a dream like this - in pieces, but isn't that how God gives it? He is trusting we will wait, pray, and watch for His hands to create. He is trusting (and protecting us) from going too fast or beyond Him and His timing too. In the meantime, life goes on as usual, and we wait, being on the alert to something that might indicate another piece to the puzzle. It's an honor but it's agony too.

I am open to knowing that there are sisters and brothers in Christ who are praying too for the birth of the Grief Center. We believe it will be called, "Inn The Master's Hands". Like the name? If you feel, after praying, that God is prompting you to give me information that shapes what the center is suppose to be like, I am all ears (or eyes if you email me about it). I'd love to hear from anyone who has thoughts about it!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Wandering Bridge

It's been a while since I've been to my blog site. I think the past month or so has been an adjusting time, a bridge of sorts, a tiring, solemn, wandering kind of walk back and forth on a bridge of life. It reminds me of the time I got stuck between two borders, New York and Ontario. I lived in Ontario for 2 1/2 years when I was out of high school. One winter after visiting family in New York, I realized I had forgotten my visa papers at home which was half way between London and Windsor. Getting to NY had not been a problem because security checks were randomly selected during the 70's and I was never selected, in spite of my hippie (me on left with my first car) appearance. I guess it was obvious that I was not skipping the draft of the USA!

Anyway, when I was returning to Ontario, I was asked to show my ID and my visa papers. I didn't have any of them so I was shipped back across the border via cab ride. When I got to NY, they didn't want me either! It was a scary place, especially since I was expecting friends to drive to NY (they finally had to let me back in since I had just come from there) and bring my papers. But a sudden terrible snow storm kept everyone from traveling and I was stuck in Buffalo for 3 days with no ID, very little money, and no one to talk to.

(Here's my graduation picture)
Life this past month has been a little bit like that...of course, I am less scared, more mature, and I have plenty of wonderful friends to talk to. But not being able to go back (to life with Vinnie) and wanting to (or not really knowing any kind of life without him) has been a struggle. Yet, moving forward seems difficult too because I am not sure where I am going. As I began to run out of electronic photos of Vinnie that I could upload to my blog site I began to realize that I needed to start blogging about the life I am suppose to be having AFTER death, after Vinnie's death, after all isn't that the name of this blog? Then tonight...I figured out what I should be writing about...the walk I am having right now, the one of the bridge! I don't have to wait and write about what is on the other side of the bridge; I can write about what the journey is right now on the bridge!

It's going to take me a while to figure things out. I knew Vinnie for almost 30 years, this journey is a bit weirder this age and in these circumstances than say, if I was in my 20's when Vinnie died. I am older, a lot larger, and childless. I don't need help with raising my little girls. I am probably never going to date again so seeking to marry again is probably not in the future scope of things either. There are friends I could join for things like evening dance lessons and workouts but I have so little a salary that outings with anyone must be kept to an all time near-no budget. So I've been wondering what I am suppose to write about...the mundane duties of work each day? Go ahead, you can say it, "That would get old fast!"

So you can take a peek at what life is for one widow who is trying to find her "New Normal" in life. That IS the journey I'm on right now. I will warn you, it's going to be some bouncing around from time zone and era to time zone and era but I think you will get a kick out of it! You see, the journey on this bridge is this...reminiscing where I've been, before Vinnie, (like the photo below of us when we were first engaged) with Vinnie, the cancer, our marriage, our dreams, and of course, a look at what may be ahead for me without him. Are you willing to keep taking the journey with me? If you do, as I begin to take more and clearer steps towards what things might be in store for me in the future, you will surely understand how all the things of my past will be what prepares me for what God has in the future. Put on your seat belts...if you want to take the journey with me, it's going to be a bit Topsy-Turvy for a while but the journey is going somewhere and I'd love for you to be on this trip with me, at least in prayer and with hopes and encouragement.

I will be back tomorrow with a description of what it is like to be a plate when God is trying to scrape it clean. Ouch! It's painful...but I can't wait to be clean, free and clear! I won't get into too much description of what the pain is like and I can't even talk too much about what the stuff is being scraped away (too many personal and family things) but I can say, He sure is turning up the heat to get the job done! I believe He is beginning to show me something that the future might hold for me so I'll give you a peek at it tomorrow. Have I got you in suspense? Good. Come back, because I want you to be updated on what I might be doing one day (when I grow up?) and I'd love to have you praying about it with me. See ya tomorrow!